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Q&A with Dr Shiang Lim
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Q&A with Dr Shiang Lim

A new nanodrug to protect the heart from damage after heart attack

Dr Shiang (Max) Lim is Head of the Cardiac Regeneration Group at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research. 

After completing his PhD from the University of Strathclyde (UK) in 2005, Dr Lim spent 4 years completing his postdoctoral research at The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute (University College London, UK). This research focused on targeting heart cell ‘machinery’ to protect the heart against damage following a heart attack.

In 2020, Dr Shiang Lim received a Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant. His project will build on his previous research and will investigate a new treatment to protect the heart from damage after a heart attack.  

What are you currently researching?

Cardiovascular disease continues to be a leading cause of death worldwide. Effective new treatments that protect the heart from injury following a heart attack are urgently needed.

One of the processes that leads to heart damage from a heart attack is a change in the shape of the ‘powerhouse’ of heart cells; the mitochondrion. Mitochondria can either fuse together or divide, and the balance between fusion and division is important for healthy cell function. My research has found that the balance is shifted toward division in heart cells when they become injured.

A specific protein called Drp1 is needed for mitochondria to divide. Blocking Drp1 stops this division, which can protect the heart from damage after a heart attack. My project aims to explore the protective effect of a new medicine that targets Drp1. By stopping the changes in mitochondria, we hope our studies will provide a new treatment to reduce heart damage and improve outcomes in people after a heart attack.   

What difference will your research make to people’s cardiovascular health in Australia?

My research combines cutting edge stem cell strategies with tissue engineering (a technique to grow new heart tissue) and medicines. Through my research, we hope to find new and effective treatments with minimal side effects. We want to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease, reduce hospital readmissions and improve peoples’ quality of life.  

Are there any discoveries from the past year from your research you can share with us?

I have previously identified a new population of stem cells in human hearts. These stem cells have a ‘secretome’; which refers to all the proteins released (or secreted) from the cells. Using an animal model of cardiovascular disease, I have recently shown that the stem cell secretome can help the heart repair after a heart attack. We are very excited about the potential of this work, as a possible new way to treat heart damage.

What role has Heart Foundation funding had in your career journey?

Funding from the Heart Foundation gives me a chance to make an impact on the lives of people with cardiovascular disease. Through my Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant, my team can test our innovative ideas to develop the next new life-saving treatment.

Do you have a message for Heart Foundation supporters?

Thanks to funding from a Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant, our team can move forward with testing our new medicine which could prevent heart damage caused by a heart attack. With your support, these innovative ideas can become reality, and we can improve the lives of people who have had a heart attack.  

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